Saturday, November 21, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
I wanted to share with you a recent conversation I had with David Newell as part of the Inner Truth podcast, where we speak about the mysteries of healing, integration, and the alchemical imagination, and about my new book A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times.
I hope you're all doing well and staying safe.
Monday, November 16, 2020
As open, sensitive human beings, we’re all going to be met with unwanted and difficult experience at times - things like disappointment, sadness, uncertainty, and grief. These and other related states - melancholy, deflation, heartbreak, and longing - are often dismissed on the spiritual path or seen as evidence that we have failed or done life “wrong.”
We all learned to turn away from parts of ourselves and experiences that didn’t always fit in. In order to protect ourselves and stay safe, we sent these parts away, into the underworld of the psyche, or what is often referred to as “the shadow.”
While it was intelligent, creative, and adaptive to disembody and locate certain experiences outside our conscious awareness, these very human, valid, and essential parts of ourselves continue to look for us, and leak out in our bodies, dreams, relationships, moods, and thoughts. The process of integration or wholeness asks that we turn back toward these ones and provide a home or sanctuary in which they can return to the larger ecology of what we are, warmed at the fire of our own presence, mercy, and kindness.
Through meditation, healing inquiry, and an embodied, trauma-sensitive approach where we “start exactly where we are,” we will navigate this full-spectrum territory together, and open to the healing potential in embracing the shadow.
- The healing potential within difficult experience such as grief, disappointment, heartbreak, and loss
- The power of our vulnerability and how it can be a portal to a deeper experience of aliveness and connection
- Unraveling the cultural (and spiritual) trance of “being happy all the time” and the wisdom in our native melancholy and sensitivity
- The poetic beauty of “not-knowing” and seeing through the fantasy that we’re always supposed to know what to do with our lives
- The tenderness of a broken heart and its deepest longing not to be “healed,” but to be held
Especially as we head into the winter months (for most of us, anyway) it seems an appropriate time to gather together, in a way that is both safe and challenging, to explore the beauty and mercy in the darkness, as it unfolds within the natural world as well as within our bodies, hearts, and souls. And to discover, together, the light that is found only there.
We look forward to getting started with our first live session on Thursday, December 3rd and would love to have you join us.
Thursday, November 5, 2020
Many of us are experiencing a deep restlessness and uncertainty, not knowing what’s coming next or how to best navigate during this transitional period. But it is precisely in times such as these that unique doorways to deep healing and transformation open, often in unexpected ways.
It’s so important right now to rest our nervous systems, to spend time each day in activities that ground, center, and guide us gently back into the experience of safety and connection.
There is an inevitable reorganization that occurs as part of the healing process. While it is so very human to “skip over” this essential phase and get to the promised rebirth, doing so prematurely prevents us from accessing the wisdom within the restructuring itself.
The alchemists, yogis, and mystics knew the importance of dissolution and experienced it as initiatory. It is the crumbling of an old dream – my life and the way I was so sure it was going to turn out – that can often provide the rich soil for creative, embodied transformation.
In order to be initiated in this way, we must slow down – and with a passionate, alive, and earthy compassion – attune to what is unfolding and being illuminated right now. To take some time to mourn the reassembling of our world and to grieve all that we will inevitably lose as we heal and awaken.
It is an act of kindness to remember that the transformational process by its very nature is messy, glorious, and full spectrum… not only an act of creation, but one of destruction as well.
I wrote A Healing Space as an invitation into the temple of your own body, as a pathway back into the depths of your own soul, using the images and metaphors from rich and diverse traditions such as neuroscience, alchemy, contemplative practice, and the poetic imagination.
I hope you enjoy the book and find it to be a true friend accompanying you into the majesty that you are.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Usually when we speak about the shadow, we're referring to less desirable experience such as unmet jealousy, rage, selfishness, and shame. Usually, the shadowy underworld is seen as the dark repository for “negative” aspects of ourselves, i.e. our terror of intimacy, unacknowledged narcissism, and unmetabolized anger and deep sadness.
But it is not only negative aspects of self that we disavow, split off from, and project. Many of us have lost the capacity to access and embody more “positive” experiences such as contentment, pleasure, creativity, empathy, and connectedness. Even the very natural, organic life-giving capacity to rest in more unstructured states of being and play can come to be associated in the nervous system and psyche as unsafe.
Some of us have even disconnected from the simple experience of joy, a spontaneous sense of elation at being alive. I was once working with a man who was suffering from depression. What we discovered during our time together was how unsafe it was for him to express joy, how the experience of simple delight became tangled in his nervous system with danger and the likelihood of incredibly painful rupture with critical attachment figures in his life.
During our sessions, there were times we would become aware of this very simple, childlike, causeless joy coming to the surface as he was speaking about some experience he had, and how inevitably some (subtle) panic or anxiety would co-arise with the aliveness. He would then quickly disembody: change the subject, generate some sort of conflict between us, “leave” the room and go back into a prior conversation or nervously ask a question, or even just close his eyes and start to meditate.
After this happened a few times, we became curious about what was going on and were able to explore it together. Slowly and safely. With no judgment or shame. So that he had the experience of being felt and understood. Repairing those broken circuitries of love, empathy, presence, and warmth.
Being together in this, he was able access previously unconscious thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and bodily sensations, as well as early memories of how his father reacted to his joy and excitement, becoming aggressive and enraged, demanding that he “grow up” and stop acting like “a baby” and embarrassing the family. And how in response to that, his mother shut down and turned away from him to avoid the conflict.
He felt so lost, unseen, unheld, and un-allowed to be who and what he is, a man who longs to know joy and at times is presented with the opportunity to re-embody to the lost pathways of pleasure and elation deep in his psychic and somatic being.
He came to see how he had equated feeling full of life and natural states of delight, interest, play, and spontaneity with being judged and rejected. Over some time, he began to unwind this organization and was able to slowly re-awaken to this spectrum of experience and touch the natural joy he had disconnected from at an earlier time in his life.
While the term has a negative, darkened connotation and imagery, it is not only “negative” experience that we place in the shadow, but any material that has not found a home within the relational field.
To retrieve the lost joyous little boy and girl is an act of love, really, not only for one’s self but for all of life.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
At times, you may be asked to sit with another who has been touched by the darkness. To allow them to fall apart in your arms, unravel, be without hope, and feel lost. You may sense there is some sort of wisdom unfolding, but it is chaotic, uncertain, and not easy to stay with.
While it is natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better, listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Extend to them a calm, regulated nervous system where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. Ensure them – with words and with your presence – that they need not "get over it," "accept everything as it is," shift into a "higher vibration," "stay in the present," be cured, transformed, or "healed" in order for you to stay close.
To provide such an environment for another, you must first offer safe passage for the unmetabolized in yourself: the unmet sadness, abandoned shame, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and deserted aloneness. If not, you may find yourself rushing to talk the other out of their experience, urgently spinning to relieve them of their feelings as a way to cut into your own anxiety and discomfort. All the while subtly and unconsciously disavowing the raging intelligence buried within the dark.
Together with them, make the commitment to not pathologize their experience. Pain is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. Shame and rage are not pathology. They are path. Seed this wisdom into the relational field and watch in awe as a new world unfolds.
As you attune to the "other" in front of you – as well as to the alchemical "other" within – feel the creative flow of love as it fills the space between, crafting you both as vessels of sanctuary for the pieces of the broken world, for the shards of confusion, and for the crumbled hopes and dreams that have dissolved in front of your eyes. Honor the holy truth that the forms that love take will always fall apart – for this is their nature – in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.
Within the aliveness of the relational field – despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the broken dreams of the future – you may see that it was only love after all, taking whatever form it must so that it may unfold itself into this world, in ways the mind may never understand.
Please do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to their emotional experience such that they feel felt, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are making meaning of their lives.
Slow way down, bracket your favorite psychological and spiritual jargon and theories, and allow yourself to be curious about how they are making sense of their experience. Feed them, hold them, speak kindly to them, provide sanctuary and safe passage for soul to disclose its mysteries. And remind them that love is here and is alive.
Monday, October 19, 2020
The path of opening the heart is not the same as becoming an unboundaried, leaky vessel for the unloading of another’s unlived life. It is to the degree that we are attuned to our own grief, sadness, shame, and rage that we will most skillfully navigate within the we-space of the relational field.
Most of us we were not trained in the art of embodied attunement as we live in an increasingly disembodied world, where the capacity to hold unfolding emotional experience was not encoded into a tender developing nervous system.
But despite early relational trauma, inconsistent empathic mirroring, and transgenerational narratives of dysregulation and insecurity, you can embody and practice this now. You can experience reunion with the disavowed inner other and play with him or her, weaving together emotion in the body, story and image in the mind, resting and exploring in unstructured states of being.
While appearing “compassionate” on the outside, being an emotional doormat involves the re-enacting of early, unconscious organization. We learned that devaluing ourselves was the most reliable route to get our needs met, fit in, receive attention and affection, and maintain a precarious tie to an unavailable attachment figure. This activity was not neurotic, but was lifesaving, creative, and intelligent from the perspective of a little one wired to connect.
But the inner passageways are luminous and ache for reorganization by way of the slower circuitries of empathy, curiosity, wonderment, and awe. Look carefully and see the ways you may habitually place others’ needs over your own – not out of true compassion for them, but as a re-enactment of early interactional fields of shame and unworthiness.
Inside, something is stirring, a longing being awakened to return home, for new circuitry to encode, for a new pathway to light up and come alive.
Slowly, one moment at a time. Safe. Connected. Open.
Raw. Tender. Sensitive. Embodied.
There is no urgency on the path of love.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
At times, the wisest, most skillful, and most compassionate action is to establish a boundary with another person. To stand up and assertively say No. To move in an empowered and swift way to protect our own integrity. To privilege our own autonomy and interiority. To meet narcissism, abuse, and neglect with a fiery, fierce, and direct response.
This is not only the case with “external” others – other people in our lives – but also with the multitude of “internal” others who surge out of the psychic underworld and take form as voices and figures of the interior landscape.
You might recognize them by their predictable refrain: “There is something wrong with you. You have failed. No one will ever love you unless you change and become someone different. You are not okay. You have fallen short. You have done life wrong. You are no good. You are uninteresting. You do not belong. Your sensitivities and eccentricities are not welcome here.”
These are the voices of the past, the shadow of a culture of materialism and greed, of the lineages of transgenerational trauma and trance. The voices of disembodiment, insensitivity, of a societal and global ego that has fallen out of communion with the natural world, the body, and the imaginal realms.
These internal visitors to an open, sensitive nervous system must also be met with the boundaries of discernment. To realize those moments when we fall out of the wisdom-presence of the here and now and into the time machine of the “there and then.”
To engage in dialogue with these figures and to proclaim our own basic goodness. To stand on the rooftops and declare that sensitivity is not pathology, that the shaky tenderness is not pathology… but path.
To not merely accept their conclusions, reality tunnels, and the lenses through which they have come to see things. But to cleanse perception with clear-seeing and the wildness of love.
To take the risk of telling a new story, dreaming a new dream, spinning out a new tale, weaving new cloth. And to allow ourselves to be turned by the great Weaver Herself… as new vision is revealed, as we become that vessel in which she can come alive here again.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
I’ve been asked recently how I work with a person in therapy. Of course, each situation is unique and in large part a matter of (al)chemical interaction and our intersecting worlds of emotional, somatic, and imaginal experience.
If someone is struggling with trauma, drowning or flooded by unbearable feeling, we build resource in the nervous system, bottom-up by way of metabolizing sensation in the body, recognizing micro-moments of dysregulation and exploring ways of coming back into ventral. Safety and connection. I’m here with you. We will do this… together.
With borderline or narcissistic organization, we build structure in the sense of self, where there have been profound deficits and consistent empathic failure, a seemingly infinite number of relational ruptures with little or no repair.
In these situations, we would not lead with transpersonal work such as active imagination, shadow, or resting in open awareness, but first build the requisite safety or structure, and repair the pathways of relational misattunement.
For someone relatively regulated and more neurotically organized, we would explore the transpersonal bands, with an emphasis on uncovering and shifting one’s center of gravity into the embodied experience of open awareness… focusing not as much in establishing resource or emphasizing safety.
But underneath it all, it’s clear I know little about the soul, how it heals and unfolds. The person in front of me is vast and majestic and I can only stand in awe at the power and beauty of one human heart as it longs to return home. To attune to and be a companion within that level of mercy and grace.
In the end, in my experience, it’s not techniques that heal. It’s love that heals. Techniques are fine, but it is the relationship between two nervous systems and the love that infuses that which allows the techniques to come alive, if and when they do. Love first, techniques second.
The nature of what this love is must be discovered moment to moment as it emerges in that vessel where we dwell together and is the neural and spiritual scaffolding that opens a light into the darkness.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
In speaking with a friend, I was reminded of the deeply embedded bias in our modern world to the solar, happy, and upward, where the lunar, earthy, and descending current is split and fragmented.
Even as we wish them relief, we may be called into deeper territory. There may be a profound wisdom in the images and somatic data, important communication from the soul which is serving an initiatory function beyond what we can perceive.
Perhaps the kindest thing we can offer our friend is to sit in the charged energy with them, empathically attuning to their immediate, embodied experience, and stay close… and remove the burden that they come out of their pain, feel better, transform, or heal in order for us to stay near.
As we turn to embrace our own unmet disappointment, grief, and despair, we remove the burden from others to tend to this material on our behalf, providing that safety which allows us to come closer to one another.
And then what is left is love, that mystery-substance which seeds the interactional field when two or more gather by way of empathic circuitry, bursting forth into the four directions.
Learn more about my new book - A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times - and read Editorial Reviews here. For a full list of online retailers, see the book's page at my website here.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
It is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to bear witness to a sunset, take a walk in the forest, listen to the birds, or share a moment of connection with the one in front of us. But another part knows how fragile it truly is here, how tenuous, and the reality that this opening into life will not be here for much longer.
Before we realize it, we can so easily fall into the trance of postponement. The spell of tomorrow looms large in the personal and collective psyche.
At the end of this life – which is sure to come much sooner than we think – it is unlikely we'll be caught up in whether we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, played it safe, healed all the wounds from our past, or wrapped up our self-improvement project.
Inside these hearts there may be only one burning question: how well did I love?
One day we will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with those we love. When we turn to them, they will be gone. One moment will be our last to encounter the immensity of one more breath, experience awe at a color or fragrance or blooming of a violet, or to enter into union with the vastness of the sea.
It will be our last chance to see a universe in a drop of rain, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or weep as the light yields to the night sky.
One last moment to imagine, to feel an emotion, fall in love, or listen to a piece of music. To know heartbreak, joy, sorrow, and peace – to behold the outrageous mystery of what it truly means to be an open, sensitive human being. To know firsthand the preciousness and rare, unique opportunity to have a human body and nervous system.
What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week?
Knowing that death will come, how will we respond to the sacred and brief appearance of life?
Perhaps our “life's purpose” has nothing to do with what job we find, what new thing we will manifest or attract for ourselves, or what new belief system we take on. But to fully live, to touch each here and now moment with our presence and with the gift of our one, wild heart.
And do whatever we can to help others: to hold them when they are hurting, to attune carefully to the ways they are making sense of a world that has gone a bit mad; to meet them with empathy and kindness, and listen to what keeps them up at night and what brings them alive.
To speak kind words and not forget the erupting miracle of the other as it appears in front of us. To companion them and be an open, warm, spacious vessel through which love can come into this world.
Perhaps this is the most radical gift we can give.
Learn more about my new book - A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times - and read Editorial Reviews here. For a full list of online retailers, see the book's page at my website here.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
No matter how things are going in your life, you can start right where you are. In any moment, slowly and safely, you can feel what you’re feeling and stay close to yourself.
It is through these micro-moments of slow, empathic attunement that new circuitry is encoded, where a growing sense of trust and confidence in the workability of your experience can emerge.
In a moment of activation – in the burning, claustrophobic, spinning world where the uninvited visitors have appeared – recognize what has happened, pause, and provide holding for the energy in the body to be contained, modulated, and gently integrated.
In a moment of overwhelm, it may not be safe in the narrative, which has fallen out of date by a few decades, no longer coherent in the here and now, but frozen in the time machine of the “there and then.” You can come back to the story and update it later with fresh vision, once the achy nervous system has been soothed.
In this pause, renew the vow you took long ago: I will not turn from myself and abandon my vulnerability. I will not bail out of my body. No, not this time. I will not desert myself. I will be a friend, a companion, and provide sanctuary and safe passage.
This time, I will not pathologize my emotional experience. Grief is not pathology. Nor is heartbreak, shakiness, uncertainty, or melancholy. They are the path. They are valid, workable, and harbingers of integration.
One second, then rest. Two seconds. Rest. Then three. More rest. As you send breath into the broken shards, a new groove is laid down.
Ask the earth to hold you, to share her soothing water, shade, and safe haven; and to stay near as you open. Find a friend, therapist, moon, star, or animal friend to bear witness as you turn into the raw alive somatic world. A being of the imaginal world, a family of wise owl guides, an attachment figure of light to unfold the resources within you.
The seen and unseen ones are always here to help us, to reveal the way home. In just one moment of pause, of remembrance, of sacred conversation, the veil parts.
Learn more about my new book - A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times - and read Editorial Reviews here. For a full list of online retailers, see the book's page at my website here.
Monday, September 21, 2020
There are times we wake in the morning and are greeted with an unexpected visitor. Perhaps blue in color, we feel her in our heart, his presence has seeded our body, saturated us with uncertainty, a sadness, a raw tender hesitation about who we are and what we are doing here.
In these moments, it is tempting to remedy the situation. Apply some teachings. Think positively. Manifest a new state. Remember all the reasons to be grateful. Replace the sadness with joy.
In this way, the visitor is abandoned and denied entry, turned from at the door and sent away. But she had never come to harm, he was never an obstacle to be overcome; only a non-ordinary companion, a fellow traveler and penetrating guide into the mystery.
Sadness is not something you need to fix, cure, or transform. It has come not to be healed, but to be held, to be allowed safe passage in order to reveal. It need not be shifted into some “higher” state or operated upon so that it will yield into something else. For it is complete and pure on its own.
There may be an important message in the core of the sadness – a unique blessing which is not able to be received in moments of peace and joy. A reminder of something that has been calling you home. A dispatch from the beloved that can only be decoded in the slow silence of aloneness.
When turned toward and entered, sadness reveals a portal through which we can connect with ourselves, with others, and with this world, a world that has forgotten something sacred about the wisdom of a broken heart.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
The unique healing power of the relational field and the lost art of rupture and repair; the poetic beauty and difficulty in creating an internal holding environment and the embodied felt sense of self-compassion; the wisdom within our symptoms and decoding the intelligence of the psyche; and a trauma-sensitive approach to spiritual practice which honors relational and emotional wounding and the body.
With a beautiful and merciful foreword by my friend Mirabai Starr, author of Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.
A Healing Space is a brilliant weave of Jungian and Eastern contemplative wisdom. In this powerful new offering, Matt Licata guides us to a place of sacred refuge, where we can meet even our greatest moments of confusion and suffering with compassion and grace.
–Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Compassion
Weaving the wisdom of reflective practices, the insights from Carl Jung and the alchemists, and the relational truths of attachment research and psychotherapy practice, Matt Licata offers us a beautiful tapestry of truths to transform trauma into healing and strength. Adversity can constrain us, but with this wonderful book, we can find the perspectives and courage to embrace the reality of life’s innate uncertainty to guide us on a journey of growth and discovery—moving from post-traumatic imprisonment to liberation.
–Dan Siegel, MD, clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine, director of Mindsight Institute, and author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
Matt Licata pinpoints a space within us where healing, awakening, and a vibrant reckoning of who we actually are can be realized. The wisdom hidden deep within our darkest experiences comes from not turning away from these, but by directly tending to them with gentleness, love, and compassion. This book depicts a way of genuine freedom.
–Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
In A Healing Space, Matt Licata serves as a compassionate and insightful guide to the transformative task we all must face: how to forge our pain and sorrow into remedies of Spirit that can illuminate our way. With the soft clarity of a magnifying glass, Matt brings into view the many things that inhabit our nature, though they are seldom easily seen. Stay in conversation with this book and you will be a better friend to yourself, those you travel with, and to life itself.
–Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Soul and Drinking from the River of Light
If you are looking for a book to be a companion to you during this extraordinary time, it’s this one. A Healing Space is a robust guidebook into the inner territory of yourself, assisting you in the exploration of deep and rich personal and life questions that lead, always, to wondrous realizations and growth. What a treasure to find in these times of great change.
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Intimate Conversations with the Divine
Tender, profound, and deeply useful, this book is gem. Remarkably, Matt Licata weaves together self-compassion, depth psychology, and radical acceptance into a beautiful, passionate, soaring exploration of all that it means to be human.
–Rick Hanson, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness
Matt Licata’s A Healing Space is a wise, compassionate, and helpful book. While healing is a mystery, we all have to consider, “What is life asking of me, and how can I bring my mature self to the task?” This book is an accessible, kind, insightful, and useful guide to assist any reader in this good work.
–James Hollis, PhD, Jungian analyst and author of Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times
A Healing Space is a beautiful, insightful, and moving contemplation of the journey of healing we all undertake as human beings. It illuminates how self-compassion—holding our own pain with love—transforms our experience in a profound way so that we can learn the lessons life offers us moment by moment.
–Kristin Neff, PhD, associate professor, University of Texas, and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Happiness is indeed a unique individual journey. A Healing Space provides a magnificent broad overview and personal spiritual path to inner peace during the current challenges.
–Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, founding president of the American Holistic Medical Association
A Healing Space invites us to explore and endeavor the alchemist’s way of facing the tough stuff that haunts us. Matt Licata, skilled psychotherapist and spirit-beacon, offers respite for the troubled soul. Along the way, he prepares us with the exercises necessary to face the wounded psyche, question its purpose in our lives, and go through the middle of it in order to free the best parts of ourselves. Healing is a tricky thing, and Matt is just the one to guide us through the psychic fog. He writes with the vulnerability of a poet and the insight of a master alchemist to help us shape what remains a recurrent struggle into a form we can face, question, and—with practice—balance and embrace.
–Stan Tatkin, PsyD, developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) and author of We Do and Wired for Love
Matt Licata’s book is a thoughtful and gentle approach to how we might heal ourselves and others. This book leads us on a practical and compassionate healing path without the complexities of much theory. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the mysteries of the healing journey.
–Lionel Corbett, MD, psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, professor of depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and author of The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice
I have read, benefited from, and shared Matt Licata’s writing for years and was overjoyed to discover his new book, A Healing Space. This inspiring book provides an integration of psychological and meditative traditions and is an excellent resource and guide for all of us seeking to learn, grow and heal.
–Shauna Shapiro, PhD, clinical psychologist and professor at Santa Clara University and author of Good Morning, I Love You: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire Your Brain for Calm, Clarity, and Joy
Matt Licata has become an important and eloquent voice inviting us to go to, rather than avoid, what seem like unbearable emotions buried in our dark depths. From his Jungian perspective, he provides needed reassurance that doing so will achieve alchemical transformations in which what we thought were inner toxins turn out to be our gold. He also offers a cogent critique of the spiritual bypassing and ego bashing that is rampant within many spiritualities.
–Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, developer of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, adjunct faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of more than fifty articles and books
A Healing Space is a beautifully written book exploring how walking through the darkness ultimately brings blessings, wisdom, and beauty to your life, and moves you onto a path of evolution that you simply cannot perceive during difficult times. Matt Licata is a perfect guide as evidenced through his life experience and work as psychotherapist. This book is so timely and filled with helpful tools to guide you from the darkness into your own divine light.
–Sandra Ingerman, MA, award-winning author of twelve books, including Walking in Light and The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life
This is a book about love. The kind of love that embraces all parts of ourselves and others with generosity, tenderness, and strength. Matt is clear that this quality of receptivity does not develop easily or quickly. It is not a decision of the mind so much as an opening of the heart so no part of us is abandoned in the healing process. Challenging our society’s tendency to fix, leave, or devalue states considered negative, he extends welcome to darkness, death, confusion, doubt, and all their companions as instructive friends in their own right, not just as the prelude to light and rebirth. He illuminates the pathway to Rumi’s Guest House where our shame and malice are equally welcome and held in healing compassion. In truth, each of us yearns for sanctuary for these parts, and Matt is a wise and empathic companion along this healing path.
–Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, author of The Heart of Trauma and Being a Brain-Wise Therapist
A deep-diving, beautifully nuanced exploration of cultivating intimacy with all that we are, including whatever in us we are inclined to reject or shun. Matt’s presentation of all this is not only lucidly articulated, but always caring, no matter how edgy the terrain. Highly recommended!
–Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, author of Spiritual Bypassing, Emotional Intimacy and Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark
Matt Licata offers guidance, support, and above all, companionship, for the most important journey of all: coming back to yourself. He offers a crucially important lesson—that personal healing and spiritual awakening are not the self-abandonment that some teachings may suggest, but rather a process of becoming more fully alive. He writes clearly and passionately, straight from his heart, to yours.
–Judith Blackstone, PhD, founder of the Realization Process and author of Trauma and Unbound Body
In this well-written book, Matt Licata challenges us to remember our disavowed parts, our painful emotions and traumas and to treat each as if it were a lost friend needing our attention. In this way, though often difficult at times, we can arrive at a state of wholeness and embrace in a gentle, loving way previously unwanted and unsupported aspects of ourselves and become the person we were meant to be. Matt supports this process with great attention and compelling narrative and offers us a hand-up in this challenging but essential task.
–Jeffrey Raff, PhD, Jungian analyst and author of several books, including Jung and the Alchemical Imagination and The Practice of Ally Work
Matt Licata has written the perfect book for these unprecedented times, exploring the overlapping fields of psychological and emotional development.
–Lama Tsultrim Allione, Buddhist teacher and author of Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine
A Healing Space is a compelling invitation to embark on a bold personal journey—to dive deeply, consciously into the pain of an unlived life. To radically trust in the process of intuitive inquiry. To be with and befriend, claim, and cherish the deepest, most intimate, sometimes disdained parts of ourselves. To listen to the wisdom and intelligence of their messages. To be held in that process in an inner felt sense of sacred safety and loving presence. To become fully known and to re-emerge in a radically new apprehension of the entirety of one’s self, fully alive, fully participating in the life’s vast mysteries and possibilities, in difficult times, in all times. Matt Licata is far more than a respected authority or trustworthy guide; he is a compassionate companion on this journey, providing the metaphors and markers needed to navigate the “green goo” of the chrysalis as the humble caterpillar morphs into the beauty and freedom of the butterfly. He illuminates for the reader the nuanced complexities of this paradoxical dance of being and becoming, fully alive, already healed.
–Linda Graham, MFT, psychotherapist and author of Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster
Despite our desire to live in the moment, most of us live in the past: rehearsing old dramas and applying old solutions to new challenges. In A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times, Matt Licata offers us away out of the past and into the present. Not an easy way, but an authentic one. This book is not meant to be a page turner, but a life saver. Use it wisely.
–Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Holy Rascals: Advice to Spiritual Revolutionaries
A Healing Space opens up an engaged pathway into the alchemical tradition of depth psychology, where Matt Licata offers powerful and responsible ways to work on oneself. As opposed to popular volumes that feature catchphrases and escapist esoteric fantasies, A Healing Space does not reduce the human journey to simplistic steps, but encourages us “to get messy with the stuff of life” and to have to courage and wherewithal to bear the unbearable. Reminding us that “emotion is not pathology” and that freedom is found in the embrace of all parts of one’s being, this work supports and illumines the journey of conscious awareness.
–Rick Jarow, PhD, associate professor of religious studies at Vassar College and author of Creating the Work You Love, Alchemy of Abundance and The Ultimate Anti-Career Guide
A goldmine of wisdom for difficult times, A Healing Space offers a profound understanding of the healing process and a deep compassion for those who travel there. Here lies a weaving of depth psychology and alchemy, with a fresh view of spiritual truths and fallacies. It shows us that true healing begins only when we stop looking for the quick fixes and fully embrace our wounds. Rich and soulful, it is a must read for anyone on their healing journey and for all practitioners who guide them. This book is the kind of therapist we all wish we could find.
–Anodea Judith, PhD, founder and director of Sacred Centers and author Eastern Body, Western Mind and Charge and the Energy Body
This inspiring book invites us to trust the intelligence of whatever is unfolding in our lives, especially when it hurts, and to meet it in a deeply compassionate way. Matt Licata is a cartographer of the human heart. He knows the ineffable space where healing occurs and offers us a map for getting there, right up to the threshold. The rest is alchemy. We have been waiting a long time for a book like this.
–Christopher Germer, PhD, clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion program
In A Healing Space, Matt Licata skillfully and gently introduces the reader into some of the most important and least-discussed work in personal spiritual development—the play of the unconscious and unilluminated parts of self. I applaud him for bringing this to all of us and highly recommend this book for anyone interested in personal healing. This is the “secret” recipe for a transformational journey that must be taken yet requires guidance to achieve. I am thrilled to see Dr. Licata taking the leap to sharing this work with anyone who has the courage to engage it.
–Ann Marie Chiasson, MD, MPH, director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, and author of Energy Healing and Self-Healing with Energy Medicine (with Dr. Andrew Weil)
Matt Licata’s book is a true companion for the journey of being here in earth school. It’s as if he takes you by the hand and heart and gentles the way into the descent of the shadow and the ascent into the light and wholeness of true healing. He has a beautiful, firm, loving grasp of the subtleties and difficulties, the joys and the ultimate wonders of being human.
–Geneen Roth, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Women Food and God and This Messy Magnificent Life
A Healing Space invites you to lean into the mystery of this ordinary life and discover the holiness and healing power of a single instant—a single breath, a bodily sensation, an old feeling that’s been waiting so long to be felt. The ordinary turns out to not be so ordinary at all. This is a book to keep close to your heart! Infused with Matt’s compassion and a deep wisdom forged in the fire of his lived experience, it soothes and encourages as it teaches. Poetically weaving together insights from neuroscience, mythology, depth psychotherapy, contemplative spirituality, and the great alchemical traditions, this book is a companion, a loving friend, and trusted guide to encourage you onwards on your path when you feel down, despondent, and stuck; to validate and befriend you when the world seems a dark and lonely place; and to help you rest, perhaps more deeply than you have ever rested in your life. Deeply profound yet highly accessible, simple yet never simplistic, A Healing Space deconstructs so many misunderstandings and misinformation around spirituality and healing work, and plunges us into the vast mystery of living, opening our eyes to the wonder and awe of existence itself, and awakening us to gift of this impossibly beautiful life, in all its joy and sorrow.
–Jeff Foster, author of The Joy of True Meditation and You Were Never Broken: Poems To Save Your Life
A Healing Space is a beautifully written and masterful handbook, both profound and practical, that reveals the road we all must travel to navigate the inevitable challenges that life brings us throughout our lives, to help us fulfill our potential as fully alive and authentic human beings. I cannot think of a better book to be reading in this moment, or at any time along your journey through life. A must-read!
–Richard Miller, PhD, author of The iRest Program for Healing PTSD, iRest Meditation: Restorative Practices for Health, Resiliency, and Well-Being, and Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing
As we enter an era of radical uncertainty, it is vital that we find the inner tools, both psychological and spiritual, to guide and support us. Rather than retreating into fear and isolation, we need to embrace the difficulties, the insecurity that life is bringing us. Grounded in the ancient tradition of alchemy, Matt Licata gives us access to a space for real healing and transformation, showing us how to grow through the darkness, and discover the true gold of our inner self. We come to experience how we are inwardly held, enabling us to open to a new world and step into unfamiliar experiences. A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times offers essential wisdom to help us to live with compassion and kindness to ourselves and others, discover how our wounds and grief are pathways to a deeper love.
–Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, PhD, Sufi teacher and author of Love is a Fire: The Sufis Mystical Journey Home
A Healing Space invites us to discover and create a way of being with our challenging experience that is intimate, loving, and deeply transformative—in Jungian terms, alchemical. Drawing from his years as a depth psychotherapist and contemplative practitioner, Matt Licata brings a mature and nuanced understanding to subtle psychospiritual issues and encourages readers to trust their own unique unfolding. Eloquent and inspiring.
–John J. Prendergast, PhD, author of The Deep Heart and In Touch, retired adjunct professor of psychology, teacher, and psychotherapist
This is a book you will treasure for a lifetime. It’s more than a book, really. It’s a compassionate, nonjudgmental, and wise companion that gently helps you explore what it means to be deeply, courageously, and honestly human.
–Martin L. Rossman, MD, clinical instructor at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco and author of The Worry Solution and Fighting Cancer from Within
A Healing Space elegantly weaves together contemporary approaches in neuroscience and depth psychology with the ancient wisdom of the contemplative traditions, providing a modern, integrated path of deep transformation that fills in what might be missing in each separately. Matt Licata emphasizes radical befriending that reorients our inner critic in a kind way. This book lands in the heart and is ultimately about the power of love to heal trauma and attachment injury. We need this fresh vision and perspective. Matt definitely delivers.
–Diane Poole Heller, PhD, founder of Dynamic Attachment Re-Patterning Experience and author of The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships and Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery
In the opening pages of A Healing Space, Matt Licata draws us into a meditative intimacy with the gift and miracle of our bodies, minds, and hearts. He keeps us there, offering trustworthy guidance in the gentle art of touching the hurting places within ourselves and others with tender hearted clarity and love.
–James Finley, PhD, clinical psychologist, former monk, and spiritual directee of Thomas Merton, and author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere
In stark contrast to the pressures posed by our always-feel-good culture, A Healing Space offers a timely and welcomed invitation to venture deep, to embrace our fragility and wounding, and access the tenderness we seek to become more fully human. Matt Licata draws on his unique blend of psychotherapy, meditative practice, and poetic imagination to help us transform the immediacy of our own awareness into a life-affirming crucible of unflinching presence and radical acceptance for all that we are and can be. Anyone with the courage to encounter their humanity in all its glory and failings will benefit from the medicinal balm that even a few pages can offer in our time of need.
–Miles Neale, PsyD, Buddhist psychotherapist, author of Gradual Awakening, and founder of the Contemplative Studies Program
You need this book! We all need this book! Though written just before the pandemic hit, this book is a healing balm for the mind, body and soul as we deal with external and mind-born stressors impacting us right now. Dr. Licata offers his compassionate wisdom, informed by clinical experience and his study of Buddhist traditions and the depth psychology of C. G. Jung and James Hillman, for all of us to benefit from.
In our emergency driven, fast paced and frantic attempts to cope, adapt, transform and survive, Licata reminds us of the importance of slowing down, getting out of the reactive fear-driven mind, and attune to what our soul’s needs are. Including our need to slow down, be present in the moment, present with ourselves, compassionately, patiently, kindly present, allowing us to experience our wholeness as well as aspects we need to transform. In many ways Licata is offering practical means for invoking what Jung called the transcendent function of the psyche, the Self. This may also be looked at as Buddha mind in the Buddhist tradition. This aspect of our consciousness gives us the spaciousness of awareness to allow us to view the challenges of the mind and body with enough distance that we can bring warm-hearted compassion and curiosity into the moment.
I highly recommend this book for everyone engaged in self-transformation, whether professionally or just for deepening your own wisdom!
–Lawrence Edwards, PhD, LMHC, BCN Senior Fellow, has been on the faculty of New York Medical College since 1998 and in private practice as a transpersonal psychotherapist for 40 years. He is the author of the The Soul’s Journey, Awakening Kundalini and other works.
Because your journey through life, like everyone’s journey, is a unique story that has never before been told and will never be told again, no guidebook really fits the territory. Matt Licata’s beautifully crafted treatise is about as close as I’ve seen! From his premise that “you are not a project to be solved, but a mystery coming into form,” he invites and shows you how to “open to the unexpected wisdom, creativity, and beauty in your immediate experience.”
–David Feinstein, PhD, co-author of The Energies of Love and Energy Medicine
–Janet Stone, yoga teacher and founder of the Stone Yoga School
Thursday, September 17, 2020
At some deep core level there may always be some hesitancy in moving into this territory, which is a valid concern, and ripe for exploration.
We come into the here and now with a rich template of past relational exchanges – will it be safe? Will I be seen… not just as an object in the awareness of the other, but as a subject with my own interiority, emotional flow, and ways of organizing my experiential world? Can I truly trust them? Will they turn from me? Will I lose myself? Is this all going to be worth it?
Inevitably, ruptures will occur within the relational field, in that tender intersection between ourselves and another. Especially when we truly allow the other to matter to us. This rupture is not evidence of error or mistake, but is natural, organic, and quantum.
A healthy relationship is not one in which there is never any conflict, but one in which rupture is repaired, by way of empathic linkage, right-brain attunement, and a simultaneous honoring of our own separateness and integrity. We must respect that we are both connected and separate simultaneously, and not merge into some homogenized leaky middle.
A conscious, embodied, and kind navigation of the cycle of rupture and repair is what allows the relationship to unfold, deepen, and disclose its secret essence.
We arrive into the space between with biographical, cultural, and archetypal patterning, scripts, and worlds of imagination. Our images and fantasies intermingle and interpenetrate to weave the relational field, along with the mysterious Other, the third who also appears.
This is why close personal relationships can be so achingly painful and disappointing, on the one hand, and the direct path into the temple of Being on the other.
Monday, September 14, 2020
So much of our wounding – our grief, rage, trauma, heartbreak – is relational and is also embodied. That which we’re unable to integrate will drop into our bodies and held in an open, sensitive, holy limbic system… where it remains until conditions are ripe for re-emergence and healing.
While understanding by way of left-brain processing can be helpful and supportive, it is right-brain immersion in safety which fosters reorganization. The body will reorganize when it feels safe.
It is a corrective emotional experience, or we could say a reparative neural experience that brings that sacred soothing, where the orphaned emotions, sensations, and impulses are able to be held within a shared field of resource.
It is as if the little one, left behind at the moment of traumatic impact, is peeking his or her sweet little heart and head out into the interactive field and wondering, “Is it safe yet?” “Can I return home?” “Can I play again?”
They come surging into the relational field, not to harm or take us down, but for reunion, to receive what was needed at the time, but for whatever reason was not available. They will never give up and, like love, are relentless in that way.
While we are wired to co-regulate with another, let us be open to the nature of this “other,” which is oriented in the mystery and may nearer than we have come to imagine – hidden inside the colors, forests, and unexpected pathways.
As the veil parts just a bit, we may discover that it’s more creative, more intelligent, more (bitter)sweet and achy and majestic than we ever expected.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Sometimes I wonder if all therapy isn’t grief therapy when all is said and done. The original Greek therapeia referred to attending, caring for, sending breath into. Not “curing,” “fixing” or even “healing,” not these heavy clinical words. But by way of our own tenderness, to infuse with life. To surround with warmth, to take the risk that this holding will always ask of us.To be a midwife for psychic and somatic reorganization, to bear witness to the birth of a new heart, one which will inevitably ache and long and break and shatter and open and crumble in the face of it all. For that is the nature of this human form, which is crafted of particles of mystery, of mercy, of grace.
Things tend to not turn out the way we thought they would, for they are too alive, too magical, too majestic. This “not turning out the way we thought” is not evidence of mistake or that we’ve failed or done life wrong, but of the beloved and her activity here. And her outrageous care for form.
To fall to the ground, to stand back up again, to fail well, to be lost, to be found, realizing that love will assume any of these forms, shifting shapes as it spirals out of the stars and makes its way into this miracle world of time and space.
To grieve the crumbling and ending of one world, the death of a dream that has finished its time here. To allow that dissolution and provide sanctuary and safe passage for these forms to continue their journey into the other world.
The grief of knowing on some deep level that all form must reorganize, for it is its nature to do so: The people in our lives, what we have come to think we are, what has previously provided meaning, our bodies, our own worlds of experience, with even our greatest revelations ground into dust and sent back into the galaxies from which they came.
To turn toward the broken and grieve consciously, to honor the uncertainty, collecting the shards and the ashes and shepherding them. To dare to see the dissolution not as error but as holy, painfully and preciously whole, and to stand in awe as the pieces reassemble.